Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Thinking about Depression


I was reading an article today with an extract from Johann Hari's book 'Lost Connections - Uncovering the real causes of depression', which I found really interesting.

It explored the idea that depression isn't caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but instead from a lack of control over your situation.

I am not sure I completely agree with this suggestion, but I do recognise that now I am not working in a stressful job I have managed to stop taking anti-depressants, after many, many years on them.

The reason I don't agree, however, is my husband, which sounds a bit odd when I say it like that, but here is the logic.

My husband doesn't suffer from depression, he gets sad, and happy, and as he has got older he is slightly grumpier but definitely no depression. He is what people generally describe as normal.

We have talked about this together and he recognises that when I am depressed, I am more than just sad, it's something else, something darker and harder to shake off. A tub of ice cream and a romantic film isn't going to fix it.

He readily admits that he doesn't have depression (which is great, because if both of us had it life would be WAY more challenging). However, his job is a process driven role on a factory floor, very repetitive, and very much out of his control.

This doesn't bother him, he can switch off and think about what he is going to do next to upgrade is computer or whatever his current project is.

Personally, this kind of job would send me into a suicidal spin. I would become so demotivated I wouldn't cope.

My previous job was as a manager, in this role I had some control over certain situations, but I was middle management and I became increasingly aware of how little control I actually had, certain situations changed at work and my responsibility was reduced. Eventually, I left, as it was affecting me emotionally and I wasn't getting any time at all with my family, and when I was with my family all I could think of was work.

So yes, as Johann Hari theorised, my lack of control affected my mental state, but it does not affect my husband.

Which makes me think that actually, there must be some reason that some of us are more susceptible to depression than others, even if you take external factors out of the scenario.

My view is that my brain is slightly broken, not massively, but enough to allow depression in, and it only needs a chink, a tiny chink in your brain armour to stamp through your brain and mess you about. 

Depression is like a very tantrummy toddler messing with your brain. And then if a life event, like bereavement or a stressful job comes into the equation then you have two toddlers in there and they are using your brain like a soft play area. Bouncing around and messing it up.

My depression has varied from severe, to mild, to serious anxiety. It has taken many forms and likes to keep surprising me, I never know when it might sneak up on me next, right now it is at bay but I am watchful.

Personally, I think its a holy trinity of low levels of serotonin, something in the genes and just life being a bit crappy, and when these all meet up - voilĂ  - depression. 

I am no expert on depression and can only speak from my own experiences. Sometimes, I have needed medication and other times I have needed to talk to someone, sometimes both, and sometimes nothing has helped and I have just had to get through it and let time do it's healing thing. Like any long term illness it is tricky to manage and maintain a level of healthiness.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed, talk to someone, whether it's a friend a doctor, or one of the lovely people at MIND, it doesn't matter who, its about getting it out of your brain, it's nothing to be embarrassed about, loads of people are suffering, just like you. 

Below are some stats about mental health, I find them weirdly reassuring that I am not alone. 

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1 in 10 Americans are on some form of anti-depressant, for women in their 40's - 50's this figure goes up to 1 in 4.

MIND (one of the many mental health charities) state: 
 
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week 

The information below is from the Mind website.

 
Every seven years a survey is done in England to measure the number of people who have different types of mental health problems [2]. It was last published in 2016 and reported these figures:

Generalised anxiety disorder 5.9 in 100 people
Depression 3.3 in 100 people
Phobias   2.4 in 100 people
OCD  1.3 in 100 people
Panic disorder 0.6 in 100 people
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 4.4 in 100 people
Mixed anxiety and depression 7.8 in 100 people   

Estimates for bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder and personality disorders are usually measured over a person's lifetime, rather than each year. Estimates for the number of people with these diagnoses can vary quite a lot but the most recent reported findings are:
Psychotic disorder  0.7 in 100 people*
Bipolar disorder  2.0 in 100 people
Antisocial personality disorder  3.3 in 100 people
Borderline personality disorder  2.4 in 100 people
*Measured over the last year.
The survey also measures the number of people who have self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts or have made suicidal attempts over their lifetime:
Suicidal thoughts 20.6 in 100 people
Suicide attempts 6.7 in 100 people
Self-harm 7.3 in 100 people       

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